Remember homophobic Kentucky clerk Kim Davis? She was just defeated

Kim Davis became notorious in 2015 for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses as Rowan County Clerk

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 6, 2018 9:46PM (EST)

  (AP/Timothy D. Easley)
(AP/Timothy D. Easley)

This story has been corrected since its original publication. Salon incorrectly reported that Elwood Caudill, the Democrat who defeated Kim Davis in Tuesday's election, was a gay man. He is not. Caudill defeated David Ermold, who is gay, in an earlier Democratic primary.

Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2015, was defeated on Tuesday in her bid for re-election.

Davis was defeated by a 54 percent to 46 percent by her Democratic challenger, Elwood Caudill, according to the Louisville Courier Journal. Caudill won the Democratic primary against David Ermold, a gay man who had been denied his marriage license by Davis and who later accused Caudill of being an anti-gay bigot himself.

Davis's political career has undergone a startling transformation since she was previously elected. Although she was initially a Democrat, Davis made national headlines when she refused to abide by a 2015 Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage throughout the country. At the time she filed a lawsuit against Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear in which he claimed that she was being persecuted for her religious beliefs.

"The Commonwealth of Kentucky, acting through Governor Beshear, has deprived Davis of her religious-conscience rights guaranteed by the United States and Kentucky constitutions and laws, by insisting that Davis issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples contrary to her conscience, based on her sincerely held religious beliefs," the lawsuit claimed.

She ultimately spent five days in jail for refusing to do so, claiming that she was acting "under God's authority," and was released after a judge ordered Davis' deputies to issue the marriage licenses without her approval.

Although Davis has since said that she doesn't object to issuing the same-sex marriage licenses because the State of Kentucky no longer requires them to include her signature, she has still made opposition to gay rights one of her signature issues. Last October Davis visited Romania in order to urge that country's government to amend its constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.

To be clear, it is not certain that Davis' position on same-sex marriage played a major role in her loss. At the same time, Davis had been an obscure political figure prior to her refusal to marry same-sex couples, so much so that it wasn't even widely known she had been initially registered as a Democrat (she later switched to being a Republican). It is unlikely that voters weren't highly motivated by the knowledge of the Rowan County Clerk's views on same-sex marriage when casting their ballots, and they likewise also knew that the outcome of Davis' reelection campaign would send a message about attitudes in their county toward accepting members of the LGBTQ community.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Gay Rights Homophobia Kentucky Kim Davis Lgbt Issues Lgbtq Issues